National

Khaps cannot interfere in marriage of consenting adults, rules Supreme Court

A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi.

A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

With this judgment, the court has filled the vacuum caused by the lack of a specific penal law against honour killings.

In an “unlimited direction” to parents, society and khap panchayats (community groups), the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that interference, harm or insult caused to consenting adults who fall in love and choose to marry is absolutely illegal.

With this judgment, the court has filled the vacuum caused by the lack of a specific penal law against honour killings.

The court said the fundamental right of two people who wish to get married to each other and live peacefully is absolute.

In previous hearings on a petition filed by NGO Shakti Vahini, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had repeatedly emphasised that no one has any individual, group or collective right to harass a couple.

The Chief Justice has said it is up to the courts to decide legally whether a marriage is null and void, or if children are legitimate or illegitimate; “no other person or group” have the right to intervene.

A senior counsel, who represented the khap panchayats, had objected to how the panchayats are portrayed as those that incite honour killings. “We are the conscience keepers,” he submitted.

“Just don’t be,” Chief Justice had replied.

Counsel said such panchayats were age-old traditions and they did now encourage inter-caste marriages.

He had argued that the objection of khaps about marriages between people from the same gotra is upheld in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. The section said the “sapinda should be removed by five degrees from the father’s side and by three degrees from the mother’s side.”

The Chief Justice had retorted, “We are not writing an essay here on traditions, lineages, etc. We are only concerned with the freedom of adults to marry and live together without facing harassment.”

The government had acknowledged that “honour killing was neither separately defined or classified as an offence under the prevailing laws. It [honour killing] is treated as murder,” the government said in its written suggestions.

Proposed law under circulation among States

The proposed law against honour killing — The Prohibition of Interference with Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance Bill — is still under circulation among the States.

The Centre recommended that the State governments should take responsibility for the lives of couples who fear retaliation. They should be housed in special protection homes, away from danger.

The government said special cells should be formed in every district to receive complaints from couples who feared for their lives.

The Centre said the apex court, due to the pendency of the proposed Bill, should categorically issue directions that “no person or assembly of persons shall harass, torture, subject to violence, threaten, intimidate or cause harm to any couple wishing to get married by their own choice or couple who have got married.”

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 9:20:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-says-khaps-cannot-intervene-in-marriage-of-consenting-adults/article23361800.ece

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